BANGOR, Maine — Supporters of Maine’s same-sex marriage law marked the final week of the campaign on Tuesday with a get-out-the-vote event in Bangor featuring Gov. John Baldacci and several families involved in the fight against Question 1.
Baldacci recalled how he was originally opposed to same-sex marriage, preferring instead laws establishing civil unions of gay and lesbian couples. But Baldacci said that after examining the legal issues and listening to the heartfelt testimony during public hearings, he came to understand that civil unions and civil marriage are not the same in the eyes of the law.
Speaking at the Bangor home of a campaign volunteer, Baldacci said it is also a constitutional issue because marriage is a civil institution recognized by the state. The governor urged Mainers to vote against Question 1, thereby upholding the gay marriage bill that he signed into law this spring.
“I think Maine people have recognized … that we are all unique people, we are all different,” Baldacci said. “But we are all under the same Constitution and we all want to make sure there is equal protection for all citizens.”
While some recent polls have shown gay marriage supporters opening up a lead, organizers from both the No on 1 campaign and Stand for Marriage Maine are predicting a close race. If Question 1 is defeated, Maine would become the first state in the nation where voters expressly granted same-sex couples the right to wed.
National groups and activists on both sides of the issue are following the debate in Maine, as evidenced by the millions of dollars that have flowed into campaign coffers from out of state in recent weeks.
No on 1 leaders said thousands of volunteers throughout the state will be staffing the phones, knocking on doors and taking other steps to make sure their side is well represented at the polls on Nov. 3.
At Tuesday’s event, held at the home of Sally Dobres, several families spoke about the importance of marriage equality. Stand for Marriage Maine is expected to hold a get-out-the-vote rally for gay marriage opponents in Brewer Tuesday evening.
Bev Uhlenhake of Brewer said she fails to understand how she and her partner getting married would be a threat to any heterosexual couple.
Uhlenhake pointed out that the now-suspended law would not force any churches or clergy members to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Statements that the law will lead to gay marriage being taught in schools have been refuted by Attorney General Janet Mills, she said.
“This vote is about children. This vote is about my child,” Uhlenhake said while standing next to her partner, Sue, and the couple’s 1-year-old son, Ben. “He deserves the right to have parents who are not legal strangers.”
Speakers at the Bangor event cautioned supporters against allowing favorable polls to breed overconfidence or complacency, as some believe happened in California last November when voters overturned a gay marriage law.
“There is a lot that needs to be done. The referendum election is next Tuesday,” Baldacci said. “We should be leaning forward and making sure, right up until 8 o’clock on Tuesday, that we have done everything possible, because we know a lot rides on this.”